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THE FLANEUR
A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris

Author: Edmund White
One in Bloomsbury - The Writer and the City series

A flaneur is a stroller, a loiterer, someone who ambles through a city without apparent purpose but is secretly attuned to the history of the place and in covert search of adventure, esthetic or erotic. White, who lived in Paris for sixteen years, wanders through the streets and avenues and along the quays, taking us into parts of Paris virtually unknown to visitors and indeed to many Parisians. Entering the Marais evokes the history of Jews in France, just as a visit to the Haynes Grill recalls the presence-festive, troubled-of black Americans in Paris for a century and a half. Gays, Decadents, even Royalists past and present are all subjected to the flaneur’s scrutiny.

The Flaneur is opinionated, personal, subjective. As White conducts us through the bookshops and boutiques, past the monuments and palaces, filling us in on the gossip and background of each site, he allows us to see through the blank walls and past the proud edifices and to glimpse the inner, human drama. Along the way he recounts everything from the latest debates among French law-makers to the juicy details of Colette’s life in the Palais Royal, even summoning up the hothouse atmosphere of Gustave Moreau’s atelier.

From Publishers Weekly
The first in Bloomsbury's new, "occasional series" The Writer and the City, White's (The Married Man) collection of impressions stands in marked contrast to many travel books published today. The organizing principle is the combined force of White's perception, imagination, frame of reference and voice. He moves seamlessly from an eyeglasses museum to the Hotel de Lauzun--home to Baudelaire as a young man--and a discussion of the poet's dandyism and struggle with syphilis. White includes personal memories and anecdotes of gay Paris--in both senses of the phrase--past and present. "To be gay and cruise is perhaps an extension of the flƒneur's very essence, or at least its most successful application," even as the flaneur's wandering is "meant to be useless." White describes his own favorite cruising spots as well as those of Louis XIV's homosexual brother, and notes that Napoleon officially decriminalized homosexuality. Other gems include a visit to the street where Colette lay bedridden with arthritis and spied on Cocteau across the way, and a discussion of the expatriation of African-Americans like Josephine Baker (Cocteau said of her, "Eroticism has found a style") and Richard Wright (who wrote of Paris, "There is such an absence of race hate that it seems a little unreal"). White's charming book is for literati, voyeurs and aesthetes, and for travelers who love familiar terrain from a different viewpoint.
© 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
$18.00 (hardcover)
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